How to Get Your Child to Wear a Bike Helmet

Tips for getting your kids to wear a helmet

We all know that wearing a helmet is a safety priority when we are out on wheels.  We also know that sometimes kids just fight wearing a helmet.  Non-stop.  It’s exhausting!  Learning how to get your child to wear a bike helmet from the beginning is key. When my oldest son was ready to start riding in our bike trailer I had no idea how to make it a good experience. 

I’ve lived and I’ve learned and I don’t want you to spend time towing a screaming toddler.  Let’s get you to the good stuff faster!  Here are some tips to help you get your kids wearing helmets consistently.

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Start Learning Helmet Wearing Early

With little ones it is especially helpful to start early teaching them to wear a helmet.  The sooner they are comfortable in a helmet, the sooner you can be out exploring together safely!  My advice is to get them comfortable with their helmet before you try to put them in a bike trailer to go for a ride. 

Have them wear it for just a few minutes at a time and then increase as they are ready.  Play games with them while you are both wearing helmets. (Bonus points if older siblings join in as well!) 

Let them see that helmets are fun and that they are part of your family adventures.

How to Get Your Child to Wear a Bike Helmet
Getting some practice in with his new helmet while we watch his brothers ride!

If you are planning on having them in a bike trailer, help them get used to riding in the trailer separately from getting used to a helmet.  If you can use the trailer as a stroller or just wheel them around in it first, do that.  Get them used to being positioned differently.  Then, start out slowly with lots of celebrating when you take them on their first ride with a helmet. 

Ride to the corner and back and then celebrate and be done for the day.  Don’t push them until they are uncomfortable, tired, and cranky otherwise they’ll start to dread the helmet AND the trailer.  Start things out nice and easy and you’ll have a new little riding buddy in no time at all!  

How to Get Your Child to Wear a Bike Helmet
Give it some time and before you know it, they’ll be so used to their helmets they can sleep in them!

Tips for getting older kids to wear their helmets

What about older kids and getting them to wear a helmet? Older kids often put up a bigger fight, so they have to be approached differently.

Make helmet-wearing non-negotiable

This can be really hard but it will make all the difference.  In our family riding anything with wheels comes with a helmet.  Bikes, rollerblades, scooters, skateboards, hoverboards, you get the idea. 

I even insist that my toddler wear a helmet on his plasma car.  It isn’t because I think he’s in any particular danger of hitting his head or getting injured.  It’s because it makes it easier in the long run if I don’t differentiate between when they need to wear a helmet and when they don’t. 

My kids know if they are on wheels they must wear a helmet.  The consequence of not wearing their helmet is that they don’t get wheels for 24 hours.  Quite honestly, I think I’ve only had to enforce that a couple of times per child because they know the drill and they love to be riding!

How to Get Your Child to Wear a Bike Helmet
Obviously the green helmet doesn’t fit little brother correctly. But his big brothers knew he needed to be wearing a helmet, even in the driveway so they grabbed the first one they could find. :):)

Set a consistent example

Your own actions are a powerful example.  If you’re going to insist they wear helmets, you need to walk the walk.  Show them that you wear your helmet all the time; even when you’re riding around the block. 

They’ll pick up on the importance quickly when they see you wearing your helmet.  Set the example and be consistent, and they’ll get the hang of helmets in no time!

How to Get Your Child to Wear a Bike Helmet
My husband and I rode bikes all over New York City on our last trip. When we showed our boys the pictures afterwards the first thing they noticed is that we were wearing helmets. Winning!

How to choose the right helmet for kids

My next tip is to get the right helmet.  Let’s be honest, there is no magic helmet that will work for every child in every circumstance so unfortunately, I can’t tell you which exact helmet to get.  But I can give you some guidelines and tips to make it easier!  

First, make sure the helmet you get is safe. You can find out more about helmet safety ratings HERE.  I try to make sure our helmets are equipped with MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) technology.  It generally costs a little bit more, but it goes a long way to increase the safety.  Your child may love that cartoon helmet from the local box store, but if it won’t keep them safe don’t waste your money.  

Next, get a helmet that fits well.  My boys have huge heads (as you can see in the picture above!) and a mistake I made early on was not paying attention to the weight of the helmet. 

My boys could wear bigger helmets, but their necks weren’t necessarily strong enough to hold the weight. They would get really grumpy when they had to wear their helmet for a longer ride. 

Best kid bike helmets

Don’t forget to let them help you choose the helmet!  They are far more likely to wear the helmet if they helped pick it and feel like it “looks cool.”  Remember how I told you to pass on the cartoon special if it doesn’t meet safety standards?  Here’s your chance to let their personality shine through.  Great helmets come in all sorts of colors and patterns. 

For baby’s first helmet we LOVE the Giro Scamp MIPS!  It is safe and super light and comes in several different colors.  

The size and fit make a huge difference in how likely your child is to wear the helmet.  If it’s too tight or too heavy or pulls their hair they are going to fight it.  Comfort should be your second priority after safety. 

We have also liked Bontrager helmets although I found them a bit more difficult to adjust properly.  If you’re not sure how to adjust the straps, ask someone at your local bike shop or check YouTube for videos on how to adjust your particular helmet.

Nutcase helmets are some of my favorites, but they do tend to be a little bit heavier so watch out for that.  Outdoor stickers are all the rage and can easily be used to customize a helmet if you need some extra incentive for a helmet-resistor.  

How to Get Your Child to Wear a Bike Helmet
This little guy absolutely loved this Nutcase helmet and was more than happy to wear it!

Talk about why it’s important to wear a helmet

We live in an area with a lot of road cyclists. I make an effort to point out that they are wearing their helmets whenever we pass them on the road. “Wow! Look how fast they are going! It’s a good thing they are wearing their helmet so they are safe!”

We also enjoy going to watch the Tour of Utah race each year and I always point out the helmets. Anytime you can point out an example, do it! You can watch the Olympics, the Tour de France, or the local high school mountain biking team. They’re all wearing helmets and it helps when kids see athletes setting the example.

We also talk about why it’s important and what can happen if they crash and they aren’t wearing their helmet. Each spring when we are starting to ride more frequently we talk about bike safety and go over our expectations for wearing helmets. We talk about it often so our kids know it is important and that we aren’t going to forget or let it slide.

Provide lots of biking opportunities where helmets are key

Finally, give them opportunities to “need” their helmet.  No, I’m not recommending you put your kids in dangerous situations or cause them to crash.  But if your kids are only riding down the block and back there is a good chance they won’t see the use in wearing a helmet at all. 

Take them on long rides and teach them how to ride on roads.  Take them off-road or downhill.  Take them to the skate park and the pump track.  Get them a mini jump (we love this one!) and let them discover on their own why they should always wear a helmet.  Don’t worry, they don’t have to get into a major wreck to realize that a helmet helps them feel safer.

This dirt track near our home is a great place to let them push themselves and learn new skills. Even though there is extra risk I feel better knowing they are wearing a helmet. And so do they.

Start early, be a consistent example, get the right helmet, and get out there! Helmets are a crucial safety element when you are biking. Make sure your child is wearing one!

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How to get your child to wear a bike helmet

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